Space body given name of Le Carre character: Astronomers discover planetesimal Karla

TWO astronomers have discovered some of the builders' rubble left over from when the Solar System was formed 4.5 billion years ago.

David Jewitt and Jane Luu detected a small, icy planetesimal - some 155 miles across - out beyond the orbit of Pluto, the most distant of all the planets.

The object is known in astronomical parlance as 1993FW. But Drs Jewitt and Luu have given it a far more romantic designation than the prosaic nomenclature of science.

When not observing the heavenly bodies, they while away the night hours reading the novels of John Le Carre; and, as they had already christened their first discovery 'George Smiley' it seemed only natural that they should have named their second find after his great opponent 'Karla'.

In keeping with the fictional Karla's mysterious movements, the astronomers have captured only a faint, fuzzy image of the planetesimal. But their picture is the reflection of sunlight that has made a round trip of about 7.8 billion miles out to Karla and then back again to enter their telescope.

Smiley and Karla are the first constituents to be detected from the Kuiper belt - this time named after Gerrit Pieter Kuiper, a Dutch astronomer, rather than a fictional hero - which contains small, icy objects left over from the formation of the solar system. Astronomers have long believed that the Kuiper belt had to exist - theory demanded it - but like so many of George Smiley's opponents, it has proved rather hard to track down.

Drs Luu and Jewitt discovered the objects using the 88in telescope belonging to the Institute for Astronomy at Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr Jewitt is an expatriate Englishman, who has been working at the University of Hawaii for years.

The telescope is located near the summit of the extinct volcano, Mauna Kea.

The two astronomers have been searching for members of the Kuiper belt for many years, but they have been helped by recent developments in detector technology - astronomers never actually look through their telescopes any more, they take photographs, attach instruments, or even put highly sophisticated versions of TV cameras, known as charge-coupled devices, on to the business end of the telescope.

According to Dr John Davies, of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, 'it is an important discovery. Within the past few years, a lot of interesting things have been found in the solar system.' Last year, a different group found a similar object not far from the orbit of Saturn: 'I was the first person to get an infra- red spectrum on it and it was really unusual - most probably covered in organic molecules.

'These planetesimals are the builders' rubble left over from the formation of the solar system and now we have found some we have the hope of finding out what they are made from,' he added.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam